Dining goes digital for Thailand’s street food vendors

Some vendors in the capital Bangkok are now offering digital transactions after five banks including Bangkok Bank and Siam Commercial Bank were given the green light to implement electronic payment systems using QR codes. (Reuters)
Updated 23 November 2017
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Dining goes digital for Thailand’s street food vendors

BANGKOK: Bangkok’s famous street-food vendors have joined the digital revolution, embracing payment via Quick Response (QR) barcodes that can be read using smartphones.
Thailand is famous for its traditional street stalls that offer everything from stir-fried noodles to clothes and for many Thais eating out at a pavement stall is part of their daily routine.
Now, some vendors in the capital Bangkok are offering digital transactions after the Bank of Thailand (BOT) last week gave the green light for five banks including Bangkok Bank and Siam Commercial Bank to implement electronic payment systems using QR codes.
“The global trend is toward a ‘cashless society’ as it is more convenient and there is proof of transaction. The QR code system would be most practical in Thailand as less investment is needed on behalf of vendors,” Somsak Khaosuwan, Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society, told Reuters.
At Samyan Market, a market and shopping area in Bangkok that sells everything from vegetables to handbags, vendors said QR codes were taking off although some shoppers still prefer to use cash, particularly those who are less tech-savvy.
“I don’t need to worry about finding change,” said Kitti Khoonphisitwong, 40, a dried-fruit vendor.
“But most customers, especially older people, find the app a hassle,” he said.
Shoppers in their 20s and 30s said they were more inclined to use the system.
“I often shop online so I have no issue with digital transactions,” said Thanachanok Teesakul, 20, a student.
Scams using fraudulent QR codes are on the rise in China, where digital payments are booming. Somsak said Thailand needs to ensure QR payment systems are secure.
“We need to make people feel comfortable in using the system,” he said.


Opulence goes low: China opens luxury hotel in quarry

Updated 15 November 2018
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Opulence goes low: China opens luxury hotel in quarry

  • The subterranean 17-floor hotel is about an hour’s drive from the center of Shanghai,
  • ‘It’s a project that’s completely new, a project we have never encountered before’

SHANGHAI: A hotel development sunk into a disused quarry in China opened its doors Thursday to deep-pocketed clientele.
Preventing the 88-meter-deep (290 feet) pit from flooding was among the chief challenges for engineers working on the swanky 336-room InterContinental Shanghai Wonderland — part of a $288 million development that also includes a theme park.
The hotel, which is one of a growing number of bold architectural designs springing up in China, hugs one side of the pit wall, with a waterfall cascading down the opposite face.
The subterranean 17-floor hotel is about an hour’s drive from the center of Shanghai, with room charges starting at 3,394 yuan ($490) a night.
There is a floor of suites below the water level, but don’t expect to gaze directly into the depths of Shenkeng Quarry — the windows are instead buffered by large fish tanks.
“Why do we say there is nothing in the world that compares to the quarry hotel project?” Chen Xiaoxiang, chief engineer with the real estate giant, Shimao Property, said.
“It’s a project that’s completely new, a project we have never encountered before.
“There were no references, cases or experience we could learn from to solve all the difficulties,” he said.
That meant engineers were met with unexpected problems.
Before construction started in 2013, for example, heavy rainfall caused a nearby river to overflow into the quarry, filling half of it.
“If something like that had happened after construction was complete, it would have been a devastating blow,” Chen said.
Designers built an embankment around the edge of the pit to prevent that happening in future, when hundreds of well-heeled guests are sipping cocktails on the deck far below.
A pump house is used to help regulate water levels.
The waterfall is one of the development’s most eye-catching features. Adventurous guests can also indulge in rock climbing.
The project’s masterminds talk up its environmental bona fides, saying abandoned quarries often become landfills.
“This was a totally unique idea, to really do something special with a site that was forgotten and nobody knew what to do with, and to give it new life,” said Martin Jochman, a British architect with the project since it started 12 years ago.
“I never lost my belief that it would be done one day, but it is here now, and I am really excited and amazed by the whole thing,” he said.
China’s rapid economic growth has been accompanied by a construction boom that often throws up outlandish designs.
The Beijing headquarters of state broadcaster China Central Television has been nicknamed “The Big Underpants” because it resembles a giant pelvis.
A skyscraper built this year in southwestern China features a 108-meter waterfall tumbling down one side.